Ste. Agathe and the surrounding lakes have been the favoured destination of generations of North Americans.
Ours is a Quebec town that has absorbed and reflects all of the various cultural influences that make
The indigenous peoples, the Weskarinis-Algonkians, wintered in our area for centuries before
their fateful defeat at the hands of the Iroquois in 1651. Even so, its name may well come from
the Algonkian word Mittawang, meaning sandy shores.
In 1849 the first hardy settlers arrived, a handful of families with descendants in the community
to this day. They came to the northern fringe of the settlement established by Augustin Norbert Morin,
one of Canada's greatest patriots. Morin, author of the 92 resolutions of the Papineau rebellion,
was the judge who is credited with having eliminated the seigneurial system and was co-author,
with Charles Dewey Day, of the Civil Code of Lower Canada. It was this code that made Canada possible.
He was the first Dean of Law at Laval University and was the Minister of Farms (Terres) in the united
Canadian government of Lafontaine and Baldwin. His name survives in the township of Morin, Morin Heights,
Val Morin and Bd. Morin in Ste. Agathe and he was clearly the principal founder of the Laurentians.
Ste. Agathe owes its survival and its golden age to the efforts of Curé Antoine Labelle.
The curé envisioned a Catholic colony that would stretch beyond Ste. Agathe through the valley
of the Rouge River and northern Ontario all the way to Winnipeg. His principal objective was to
see a railroad built north through Ste. Agathe and onward to his destination. Sadly he died the
year before the railroad arrived in Ste. Agathe in 1892.
Perhaps unforeseen by the curé, the train brought with it thousands upon thousands of visitors
and turned Ste. Agathe into a boomtown. By 1911 the total assessed value of buildings had grown
to 20 times its size in 1892 and this despite the great fire that destroyed most of St. Vincent
Street in 1907. During the fire, the mayor appealed by telegramme to St. Jerome and that
municipality sent its firefighting equipment up by train in a record 53 minutes. Later that
same summer the new Catholic church, completed in 1905, was officially blessed. Its existence
stands as a monument to the dedication of its parishioners.
Ste. Agathe's sandy lake proved to be irresistible to the wealthy families of Montreal and the
northern United States. One of the first to arrive was Octavien Rolland, third son of J.B. Rolland,
founder of Rolland Paper. By 1910 almost every resident of Montreal's Golden Square Mile had a
residence around the lake or in the neighbourhood. Many of these homes are still with us. The
Baumgarten house overlooking the lake is one of the better known.
Ste. Agathe's major assets proved to be its cool, fresh air and its clean water. One of the first
entrepreneurs to discover this was a nurse from New York City named Elizabeth Wand. Around 1895
she opened a health spa overlooking the lake. Today this building still operates as Auberge Tour du Lac.
Shortly after, in 1899, Dr. Arthur Richer founded a tuberculosis hospital. Two hundred physicians
and dignitaries were present for the grand opening. Even though the hospital burned to the ground
in 1902, his efforts heralded the beginning of Ste. Agathe's vocation as the premier Canadian
treatment centre for tuberculosis and other chest related problems.
By the beginning of the First World War, Ste. Agathe boasted 2 major sanitaria and many preventoria
and the Laurentian Chest Hospital soon became the treatment centre for Canada's soldiers.
One architectural feature that resulted from the TB care is the large solarium. This purposely
poorly insulated glass room was designed to house convalescing patients on day-beds. Many such
solaria can still be found in Ste. Agathe.
Today, Ste-Agathe stands poised at the beginning of a new century. The old railroad line
that meant so much to our growth has been replaced with a linear park just in time for a
new generation looking to stay fit and experience our recreational environment.
Enjoy your tour and as you walk around our town, you will be following in the footsteps
of many notable Canadians who claim Ste. Agathe as a part of their heritage.